Police in four Bengal districts have ramped up security and surveillance in forest stretches bordering Jharkhand following intelligence reports of increased activities by Maoists and their sympathisers in a bid to regroup in the Jungle Mahal.
Sources have said police superintendents of Bankura, Purulia, Jhargram and West Midnapore districts sent proposals to the inspector general of police (western range) to install CCTV cameras in the jungle areas and set up watchtowers along the border of Jharkhand where Maoists have a presence.
Maoists had been active in the four districts till 2011.
Intelligence sources said Maoist squad members from Jharkhand were frequently visiting villages adjoining the forests in the four districts and holding meetings with people. The sources said a section of Maoist ideologues regularly went to the villages to take people into confidence and help the rebels regroup and create a base again in the Jungle Mahal.
Rajeev Mishra, the IG, western range, admitted that security vigil was being stepped up in the Jungle Mahal on the basis of the intelligence. “All police stations have been alerted and policemen and civic volunteers have been asked to keep a close watch on the movement of outsiders at villages,” said Mishra.
However, the police sources said Maoists were yet to create a strong support base in the villages to take shelter. “They (Maoists) are returning soon after holding meetings as they do not have any base in these districts at the moment,” said a source.
The police are using civic police volunteers to mix with villagers and gather information on the presence of “outsiders”.
“We have been sending civic police volunteers to the forest villages to gather information on outsiders from Jharkhand. We are more alert after recovering posters in the name of Maoists in Jhargram, Purulia and West Midnapore and arrested three suspected rebels from Goaltore last month,” said a police officer in Purulia.
Thousands of civic volunteers recruited in the Jungle Mahal are considered important foot soldiers of intelligence network. “The volunteers have been recruited from almost every village. They know the people living in their areas by face. So, if outsiders enter their villages frequently, it will be easy for them to identify them,” said a police officer.
Bankura district police have started overhauling an armoured vehicle kept at the police line as it was not in use since Maoist activity came to a halt seven years ago following the death of rebel leader Kishan.
“We are now examining the fitness of the vehicle and have decided to patrol the jungles with it. All police camps in former troubled zones have been put on alert. We are ready to handle any untoward situation,” said a police officer in Bankura.
During her recent administrative review meetings in Purulia and Bankura, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had asked the police to set up watchtowers along the Jharkhand border and connect with villagers in the forest stretches.